Harry Potter Fans Buy Pet Owls, Then Dump Them

Owl ownership has increased since the release of the Harry Potter films. Stuart Richards/Flickr

Harry Potter fans looking to live out the magic of their favorite fantasy series are being blamed for a rapid increase in pet owls being sold worldwide. In the Potter books and movies, Harry keeps an exceptonally obedient snowy owl named Hedwig as a pet. But the reality of owl ownership involves commitment and responsibility some fans of the children's books aren't ready for, and many of the birds are later dumped as a result.

The problem is becoming such a concern in Britian that an animal sanctuary has recently opened up to help adopt unwanted owls that have been neglected by feckless Potter fans. Currently the sanctuary is caring for 20 owls which have come from places throughout the country.

"They might look great in the Harry Potter films, but it takes years to train them. Children read the books and see the films and say to their mums and dads they want one and parents don't realise how much care it takes to look after them," said the sanctuary's director Don Walser.

And when the burden of that responsibility hits, a lot of the owls end up getting mistreated. One pair of snowy owls currently in the care of the sanctuary were starved for three days after being forgotten in their owner's garden. Many of the other owls have also arrived malnourished or in poor health.

In most places you don't need to have any qualifying credentials or license to purchase a pet owl. Furthermore, although it is often illegal to trap and sell wild owls, birds which have been bred in captivity can be sold without regulation. And the buisness can be fairly lucrative too. Breeds like snowy owls can rake in around £250 a bird.

Unfortunately, it's doubtful that boorish fantasy fads will go away any time soon, whether from this craze or some other. Until suitable regulations are passed, it's the animals that have to face the cruel reality.